- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 11, 2000

The Times misplaces blame on MTBE

The June 1 editorial "The cost of EPA 'benefits' " misrepresented the facts about the cleaner-burning gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) and ignored the economic boondoggle on which we are poised to embark if ethanol is ushered in as a replacement for MTBE.

The Times claims that the EPA "forced the adoption" of MTBE by the nation's refiners. In fact, MTBE was the choice of refiners because it was the least expensive additive on the market, not to mention the most effective at fighting air pollution. Despite implication of The Times that MTBE has not improved air quality, the truth is that MTBE use in reformulated gasoline has exceeded all expectations for improving air quality. A recent report by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District in San Francisco credited MTBE with a 40 percent reduction in cancer-causing air toxins in that region. It is also important to point out that cancer research organizations on the federal, state and international level all have declined to list MTBE as a human carcinogen.

With regard to ground-water contamination, MTBE is a component of gasoline, and when gasoline leaks from storage tanks it, along with other components of gasoline, may impact ground water. To single out MTBE and ignore the root cause of the ground-water contamination (leaking underground gasoline storage tanks) simply isn't logical. Continuing to fix the tanks will keep gasoline, with or without MTBE, from impacting ground water.

Rather than joining a misinformed chorus of detractors of MTBE, The Times should look at the economics of ethanol, the additive that some hope will replace MTBE. Despite a massive 54 cents per gallon taxpayer-funded subsidy, ethanol could not compete with MTBE on price. If MTBE is banned, that point will be moot, as ethanol will be handed a monopoly on top of its subsidy. Already-exorbitant gasoline prices will rise as a result of the huge costs associated with producing and transporting ethanol, and air quality will suffer because ethanol has been proved to contribute to smog formation.

The Times was right to take a hard look at the economic impacts of EPA regulations, but it misplaced blame on MTBE, which is an illustration of how market forces can bridge the gap between sound environmental policy and fiscal discipline. The Times would do well to turn its attention to the economic folly of a wholesale shift to ethanol-blended gasoline.

JOHN KNEISS

Director of product stewardship

Oxygenated Fuels Association

Washington

A diplomatic mistake in Travel story

I have traveled to Oman and enjoyed myself thoroughly there, but after reading your article in the Travel section ("Enjoying modern, culturally rich Oman," June 3), I wanted to correct one error. I am not trying to detract from the appeal of Oman, but when the article says, "Oman was the first Arabic country to establish diplomatic relations with the United States," it is incorrect when you consider that Moroccans are 99 percent Arab-Berber, and their official language is Arabic.

In 1776, Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdullah, the sultan of Morocco, opened diplomatic relations with the fledgling United States and, in 1786, went on to sign the first of two treaties between an Arab country and the fully established U.S. government.

The Treaty of Peace and Friendship was signed June 28 and the Ship-Signals Agreement was signed July 15, both as part of the Barbary Treaties. President George Washington refers to these treaties with the then-sultan, Moulay Slimane, and the former, Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdullah, in his 7th Annual Message on Dec. 8, 1795.

The diplomatic relations referred to between the sultanate of Oman and the United States occurred during the early 1800s. As such, the honor of the first Arab country to open diplomatic relations with the United States goes to Morocco.

PATRICK J. CARROLL

Springfield

Clarifications to 'Visa for terrorism supporter'

Thanks to Steven Emerson's inability to keep his plot lines straight, pointing out the questionable nature of his assertions in "Visa for terrorism supporter" (Op-Ed, May 19) is simple.

Ishaq Farhan, characterized by the New York Times as a moderate, was traveling from Jordan to an American Muslims for Jerusalem event in California. Mr. Farhan is a high-ranking official in Jordan's main parliamentary opposition party, the Islamic Action Front (IAF). On arrival in New York, he was told that his visa had been canceled, and he was denied entry into the United States. Shortly after his return to Jordan, Mr. Farhan was issued an apology by the State Department, along with a new visa.

In attempting to make Mr. Farhan into a sinister figure, Mr. Emerson writes that a threatening fax sent to the U.S. Embassy in Jordan originated from "Mr. Farhan's fax machine from his IAF headquarters." Mr. Emerson elects not to inform the reader that the fax was handwritten and unsigned. According to Robert Bentley of the State Department's Jordan desk, the fax did not fit IAF's long-established patterns when corresponding with U.S. officials. Thus, it was ruled that the fax was not credible.

Mr. Emerson states that last year a speaker at our Santa Clara, Calif., conference called for the killing of Jews. The speaker was reciting a statement of the Prophet Mohammed relating to the time of chaos before Judgment Day. Deuteronomy 2:34 reads, "And we took all his cities at that time, and utterly destroyed the men, and the women, and the little ones…" Using Mr. Emerson's methodology, a person could say anyone reciting this verse is calling for the killing of Muslim men, women and children. Both assertions that one is calling for the wholesale killing of Jews or of Muslims are equally inaccurate.

Mr. Emerson's claim that the State Department has bowed to political pressure with regard to Mr. Farhan's visa is laughable. With all due respect for the efforts of Muslims in America, we honestly acknowledge we are serious underdogs when it comes to presenting an alternate perspective to that of the pro-Israel lobby in Washington.

Mr. Emerson has been wrong before. A May 19, 1991, article in the New York Times Book Review noted that his work "Terrorist" was "marred by factual errors" and demonstrated "an unfamiliarity with the Middle East and a pervasive anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian bias." Mr. Emerson blamed the horrid bombing in Oklahoma City and the tragic crash of TWA Flight 800 on Muslims. In 1999, Mr. Emerson was forced to retract accusations against lecturer and journalist Reese Erlich. In a pamphlet, Mr. Emerson had asserted that detractors such as Mr. Erlich were, among other things, "terrorist apologists, anti-Semites, and ultra right-wing extremists." Mr. Emerson also compared Mr. Erlich, who is Jewish, to David Duke. After receiving a letter from Mr. Erlich's lawyer, Mr. Emerson sent a retraction that characterized his own material as "incorrect." On May 23, Mr. Emerson was upbraided by Rep. John Conyers Jr. for providing information to Congress "that was not quite on the mark."

In 1990, Alexander Cockburn, a columnist for the Nation, summarized his perspective of Mr. Emerson in the Wall Street Journal: "Mr. Emerson's prime role is to whitewash Israeli governments and revile their critics." In 1994, the Israeli paper the Jerusalem Post noted Mr. Emerson's "close ties to Israeli intelligence."

Mr. Emerson's reaction to any occurrence has a Pavlovian ring to it. Incident blame the Muslims. Incident blame the Muslims. There is little wonder he saw the recent incident with Mr. Farhan as feeding time. That he slavered in the lack of evidential food is not surprising either.

KHALID M. TURAANI

Executive director

American Muslims for Jerusalem

Washington

Gore's new platform?

If shaking down Buddhist nuns and soliciting donations using his government phone is the animus behind Vice President Al Gore's promise to reform campaign-finance laws, maybe our slumlord vice president can broaden his platform to include tenant rights.

THOMAS M. BEATTIE

Mount Vernon

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